08/29/2013 10:54 am ET

Growing Up In A Kenyan Slum Taught Me The Real Value Of Stuff


I grew up by the main road through Manyatta, the slum neighborhood of Kisumu, Kenya. My mother and other women from our community struggled to put food on their own tables. But they started a feeding program in our home for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, which was rampant in Kisumu in the 1990s. The program eventually became Young Generation Centre, an orphanage that still serves the community.

My mother became a businesswoman to cover the household’s expenses. She built a mud-walled building and rented rooms, dug a well to get water to sell, sold groceries, and supplied milk and bread to shopkeepers. Her many businesses ensured that we were all fed and clothed. There were no extras, but I never felt deprived, because we were surrounded by people who had very few possessions.